Indiana Agriculture Insider

April 2016 Issue

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5 ways to promote agriculture this spring

Spring is officially here! Flowers are blooming, the weather is warming up and farmers are getting out into the fields to plant. As busy as this season is for many of us, it’s also an excellent time to promote agriculture and help consumers better understand what’s happening on the farm and in the industry. 

Whether you're a member of the agricultural community, or an agriculture enthusiast, there are many ways to promote the industry this spring. Here are five ways to get you started:

  1. Instagram: A picture is worth a thousand words! Instagram is here to help us tell our agriculture stories in pictures. Snap a photo on your phone while planting, doing field work, working with farmers or wherever your agricultural adventures take you this spring. NOTE: don’t forget to include a caption to explain what’s happening in the photo since those outside of agriculture may not know what is taking place.
  2. Social Media: People want to know where their food comes from, and social media is a great tool to help us reach consumers! If you have a personal Facebook page, blog, Twitter account or any other social media platform, use it to show and tell what you are up to this spring in agriculture.
  3. Everyday conversations: Don’t forget about the importance of those everyday conversations. Talk about what you’ve been up to and help connect those outside of agriculture to what is happening on the farm and in the industry this time of year. The grocery store, dentist’s office and other places are great for these conversations.
  4. Farm tours: With a fervor of activities taking place, now is a great time of the year to host a farm tour. You could invite school children out to the farm for a field trip to learn more about agriculture, or perhaps a local civic organization or elected officials. People love to see things firsthand, so this is a great way to explain and show what you are doing, how you are doing it and why. 
  5. Lose the industry jargon: Regardless of how you are promoting agriculture, make sure you are speaking in a language that consumers can understand. That means not using industry jargon and terminology. If you must use a specific term, make sure to define it. To bridge the gap, we need to meet consumers where they are and connect what we are talking about to what they already know. 

Program gives growers the "advantage"

There are many strategies and methods that can help farmers get ahead during growing season, but how many of those strategies are personalized? How many of those methods are free? Better yet, how many involve an expert opinion? 

INfield Advantage

INfield Advantage (INFA) is a fitting name for a program that gives growers the upper hand. By gathering and analyzing personalized, field-specific data, the purpose of INFA is to help participants improve their understanding of how nitrogen is used within the framework of their particular operation, which includes field history, rotations and nutrient management. 

INFA focuses on regional groups that range anywhere between 10 to 20 growers. The groups are led by a local leader, which can consist of an ISDA or Soil and Water Conservation District staff member, who assist the participants and help them enroll their fields into the program. On average, most growers sign up anywhere from 2 to 6 fields.

Once in the program, there many tools available to the participants that can provide insight into their nitrogen management practices including:

  • Corn stalk nitrate testing: This will allow participants to determine nitrogen use efficiency at the end of the growing period.
  • Aerial imagery: This will allow participants to discover possible issues, including soil compaction and equipment malfunctions.
  • Replicated strip trials: This will allow participants to compare different rates, forms, timing and placement of crop nutrients within a single field to evaluate nutrient efficiency and associated yield.

While there are many advantages to participating in INFA, one of the biggest is the local winter grower meeting. This brings together local participants with an agronomic consultant who are able to discuss their findings and share best practices moving forward. It’s important to note that the individual field reports are kept anonymous and the locations are generalized to protect the grower’s information during the meeting.

Registration has begun for 2016, so for more information as well as case studies, please visit

INfield Advantage is available to Indiana crop farmers thanks to: Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Purdue Extension, Indiana Conservation Partnership and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Cover crop field day yields results

Recently, ISDA members attended a cover crop field day in Hendricks County. This was a great opportunity for staff to learn more about the benefits of using cover crops, the process of selecting species and mixes, and different weed suppression techniques. It was also a valuable opportunity for growers, who were interested in learning more about the benefits of cover crops, to connect with other growers who are experienced in using them. 



The field day included a visual examination of the soil to spot differences in coloration based on cover crop usage, as well as a discussion of root growth and nutrient production. The group learned that cover crops can be thought of like a "winter blanket for your field" and that they can reduce erosion, improve soil quality by increasing organic matter and water retention capacity, and help retain nutrients, to list a few.

ISDA is an advocate for the use of cover crops, and through our Division of Soil Conservation and the Indiana Conservation Partnership, technical and educational assistance is available to growers considering cover crops. Additionally, the Midwest Cover Crop Council, of which Purdue is a member, also provides useful information for both new and experienced users of cover crops. 

Specialty Crop Block Grant program benefits Hoosiers

According to a study by Feeding Indiana’s Hungry and Feeding America, 1 in 6 people in Indiana, or an estimated 1.1 million, turn to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families. Addressing the issue of food insecurity is complicated and no easy task. It is not just about getting enough food, but rather ensuring it is healthy and nutritious food, which can be a daily struggle for low-income families.  However, some initiatives, like Growing Opportunities, are working hard to address this issue in order to improve the lives of Hoosiers.

To achieve this, they are actively raising awareness about the importance of good nutrition and cooking on a regular basis. They also provide information to help low-income families incorporate more nutrient-dense foods into their diets, such as herbs and leafy greens – both specialty crops.

Working to accomplish a similar goal is Growing Places Indy. They offer specialty crop focused educational opportunities, such as cooking, nutrition and gardening classes, to youth and adults, as well as classes about season extension practices. Additionally, they are working to increase access to nutritious specialty crops for individuals and families living in low food access areas of Indianapolis.

So, what do both of these initiatives have in common? They were awarded grants through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program and have been using those funds to achieve their goals.

The program is administered by ISDA and was established to help fund projects to enhance the competitiveness of Indiana’s specialty crops. Through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), funds are available to nonprofits, producers, academic institutions and government agencies, to name a few, and ISDA is currently accepting applications until June 6.

If approved, these grants can be used to develop a local or regional food system, or improve food access in underserved communities. They could also be used to develop new as well as improved seed varieties and specialty crops. Investing in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes, is another possible objective. Click here to see the full list.

If you, or someone you know, might be interested in applying, please visit or contact Hannah Ferguson at Grant proposals are due June 6, 2016 by 5:00 p.m. (EST).

Note: USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service defines specialty crops as "fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops (including floriculture)." Eligible plants must be intensively cultivated and used by people for food, medicinal purposes and/or aesthetic gratification. A list of specialty crops is available, along with a companion list of ineligible commodities, on USDA’s website.

Featured in this Newsletter:

5 Ways to promote agriculture this spring

Program gives growers the "advantage"

Cover crop field day yields results

Specialty Crop Block Grant program benefits Hoosiers

Key Dates:

April 27
Indiana Grown Commission Meeting 

April 28
Indiana Land Resources Council Meeting 

May 11
Barnes and Thornburg Ag Conference

May 19
Indiana Ethanol Forum, Indianapolis

May 24
Faegre Baker Ag Conference, Indianapolis

Important Update:

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is making up to $44 million available to farmers, ranchers and businesses to develop new bio-based products and expand markets through the Value-Added Producer Grant program.

Value-Added Producer Grants may be used to develop new products and create additional uses for existing ones.

For more information, please click here

ISDA in the News:

Hoosier Families honored at Statehouse for Agricultural Heritage

Clean Water Indiana funds go to 92 counties

ISDA Director Details Big Ag Deals

What INfield Advantage program is all about

Steady increase in cover crops

Statewide Funding Available For Specialty Crops

Indiana Farm Bureau celebrates historic legislative victory

Featured farmer part of fair's bicentennial theme

3 reasons why you should consider joining an INfield Advantage 

ISDA Photos:

On behalf of ISDA, Ben Gavelek congratulated Bonnie Plants' 3rd Grade Cabbage Program participant Rylan Rule on growing the largest cabbage (31lbs) in the state!
Congratulations to the 46 families honored with Hoosier Homestead Awards this past March.
ISDA Director, Ted McKinney joined Governor Pence, Lt. Governor Holcomb and others for the signing of bills SEA308 & SEA238 into law.

Indiana Grown Recipe of the Month: Lemon Basil Chicken


4 chicken breasts
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried basil or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 small sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an oven bag, add flour and lemon juice together.  Squeeze the bag to blend the two ingredients. Place chicken in the bag and turn it to coat with the sauce. Arrange chicken in an even layer within the bag and place the bag on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan. Sprinkle chicken with seasoned salt and basil. Place sliced onions over chicken. Close bag with a nylon tie and cut a few steam holes in the bag. Bake 30-35 minutes.  

Indiana Agritourism Destination of the Month: Stream Cliff Herb Farm Commiskey, IN


At Stream Cliff Farm you will find beautiful display gardens arranged in the design of quilt patterns. Twigs & Sprigs Tearoom serving delicious gourmet meals. A winery serving handcrafted wines ranging from bold, dry reds to sweet fruit wines. 

There are also three gift shops, as well as the Keeping Room where classes are taught on gardening, crafting and cooking with herbs and wine.

Contact ISDA:

Indiana State Department of Agriculture 
One North Capitol Avenue, Suite 600 
Indianapolis, IN 46204
317.232.1362 FAX